Appreciating the Culture of Attending a Commuter School
Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 16:05
Somehow, somewhere along the line, Cal State Long Beach’s label of being a “commuter school” has become a shameful stereotype for its students.
A consensus has been formed that the label must be dropped. It even led to a candidate in the recent ASI presidential election – whose name shall remain anonymous – presenting a platform that would change the name of the school. The sole purpose of this proposal was to somehow make CSULB do away with the notoriety of being a commuter school.
This is a baffling self-discrimination, but it’s not because CSULB isn’t a commuter school. In fact, statistics prove that CSULB is overwhelmingly commuter-driven (According to U.S. News, only 7 percent of CSULB students live in college-owned or affiliated housing.). The oddity in logic here is the assured, but still an unexplained, acknowledgement by majority of the students that attending a commuter school somehow makes them uncultured and unsophisticated.
Having commuted to CSULB from downtown Los Angeles via Metro Rail for a year now, I’ve come to appreciate the art and craft of being a commuter student as it put me in a unique culture of its own. Truth be told, the commute requires a grueling two-hour travel – an eastbound Purple Line train to the business district of downtown LA, an overground southbound Blue Line train to the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, and finally, a Long Beach Transit bus ride to the heart of the campus, which anyone with a CSULB student ID can get on for free.
Ostensibly, the view from the train as it glides through suburban LA certainly isn’t the most attractive one, but the journey does make for a fascinating and enlightening experience. The scenery outside the window transforms from the glossy LA Live and Staples Center to ramshackle cottages and shabby streets of Compton to the affluent neighborhoods of Long Beach.
The fluctuating scenery is perhaps a true reflection of living in today’s America where ethnic diversity and social stratification have created cultural differences led by abounding lifestyles, and yet, all of us are expected to conform to one common system regardless of the glaring gaps surrounding the values, beliefs and starting points of our respective lives. Storming through the morning breeze, the train draws a thought-provoking portrait of America’s mingled state.
That’s not to suggest that the disproportionate appearances of the places we live in reflect our character and the eventual destination of our future. Because after observing the people inside the train rather than coming up with negative assumptions based on what was seen on the outside of it, I remain hopeful than ever that the fundamental beauty of human nature will always overcome our differences.
On the train at six o’clock in the morning, I saw underprivileged students of Compton Community College studying laboriously for exams, troubled (but proud) fathers from Inglewood heading to work to earn a living and selfless mothers taking their preadolescent children to school, all of whom were too diligent, passionate and caring to let anyone think for a second that the world is doom for failure as we often believe. Their desperation and willingness to put forth the effort are a source of hope anyone, regardless of whom, can share.
It’s this very attitude that helped build today’s America. It’s what became this nation’s fundamental belief – E pluribus unum (Latin for “Out of many, one”) – written on the Great Seal of the United States to remind all Americans the value of living here. It’s what allows us all to pursue our own individual dreams and still come together to form the strongest nations ever to be constructed in such a short period of time.